After delivering an intense and atmospheric performance, Shiny Toy Guns’ Carah Faye Charnow (vocals/keyboards/bass) sat down with Chicago Music Magazine to talk about the tour, songwriting, and the music that inspires her.
Adam Moyer: So Carah, how’s the tour so far?
Carah Faye Charnow: The tour’s been incredible. There aren’t a lot of dates so we’re making the most of it, playing 22 songs every night. The hurricane sort of thwarted our progress, but we’re going to do make-up dates in New York and D.C., but it’s been awesome.
AM: Do you approach performing shows in the Midwest differently than the coasts?
CFC: We don’t approach them any different. Every show we just go out there and do what we do and hope that that crowd loves it! (Laughs) But you know, sometimes you have to read a crowd like whether they’re going to want a ballad or a peppier song, but for the most part, we play the same thing every night.
AM: How do the four of you come together to make decisions on the direction of a song?
CFC: Well, Chad, Jeremy and I do most of the writing and basically, someone brings a song or an idea to the table- it could be anything- it could be a lyric, it could be a bass line. And if everyone’s vibing off it, then you finish it and work on it. For “Fading Listening,” for example, Chad was working on this track and it had this part that went -(sings Chad’s opening vocalization to the song) - and I had given him this pool of ideas and he took my verses from another song - (sings her first line to the song, “You know I have a way…”) - and put it into that song. We were all like “That works!” It wasn’t even written for that song and they just worked perfectly together.
AM: Do you ever have to fight for your idea to get into a song or are you all very open to what’s best for the song?
CFC: It’s all best for the song, best for the album, best for the band. It’s who wrote the best lyric, who wrote the best melody.
AM: What do you think the key is to maintaining a sustainable relationship in a band?
CFC: Well, it’s clichéd, but communication is key. We broke down communication before and we didn’t work out problems. When you’re on the road, it’s a high-stress situation. Things are going to happen. You’re a family, someone’s having a bad day and you can’t let things build up. You have to talk about things and that’s what we really work on now- just making sure that there’s a real communicative atmosphere and not letting anything break down again.
AM: There’s a big 80’s vibe on your first album We Are Pilots, a rock vibe on the second album Season of Poison, and now there’s a moodier vibe on III with an emphasis on great songwriting and great production.
AM: So where do you see yourselves evolving to for the next album?
CFC: Yeah, I was involved a lot more on this record and I feel like “Somewhere to Hide,” “Fading Listening,” and “E V A Y” are sort of where we’re heading. We’re always going to be writing pop songs but we’re really hitting a new nerve that I think all of us are excited about and I think that’s probably where we’ll go.
AM: Was it a conscious effort to put some strong ballads on this album?
CFC: No, that’s kind of where we’re at right now.
AM: What current music is inspiring to you?
CFC: I don’t listen to current music.
AM: Not at all?
CFC: I listen to old music. I listen to the best of the best of the best- I’m trying to think of who- I mean, I really love Band of Horses, Beach House, like those kind of really emotional… It’s all about the voice and the melody and I love lyrics. Nothing else really new. I’m a Billy Joel, Nat King Cole, old jazz stuff- I like old stuff. Pink Floyd-
AM: Pink Floyd is what seems apparent.
CFC: Yeah, we all love Pink Floyd!
AM: …and that’s not a bad thing! Is there anything you’d like to say to Chicago?
CFC: Please check out the new record! If you don’t know it’s out please buy it! We’ve worked really hard on it!!